They are the remains of a comet and reach a speed of 216,000 kilometers per hour: How to spot the falling stars.
Berlin – Midsummer time is shooting stars time: As every year in August, the legendary Persian swarm promises countless shooting stars these days, which can be seen without any optical aids. The peak of the meteor shower is expected around August 12th, but the view of the night sky is already worthwhile – if the currently rainy summer weather in our latitudes allows this.
See Perseids: For night owls and early risers
When the sky is clear, many of these summer meteors can be seen in the night sky even in the nights before the Perseid maximum on Thursday next week. Night owls or early risers should be able to catch a glimpse of one or the other falling summer star when there are gaps in the clouds. According to the old custom, some observers will then feel invited to give the falling star, which burns up in seconds, a secret wish on its way.
Perseids: Dozens of meteors per hour
At the time of the Perseid maximum, up to a hundred falling stars per hour could ideally light up in the sky – but only with unusually good observation conditions. Inexperienced observers are unlikely to see that many shooting stars. The best observation time during the Perseid maximum in the second half of the coming week is between late evening and early morning.
Shooting stars: trail to the constellation of Perseus
The August meteors have always marked a fixed date in the astronomical annual calendar for fans of falling stars: The Perseids are the only large meteor shower in summer and one of the most productive of all. The summer falling stars take their name from the constellation Perseus. There is the apparent starting point of the Perseid meteors, the so-called radians.
Meteor shower: sniffing cometary dust
In truth, however, the shooting stars come from the immediate vicinity of the earth: On its orbit around the sun, our planet crosses a cloud of tiny particles every year between mid-July and the end of August, which the comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle left behind on its orbit around our central star.
Perseids: On the move at a speed of 216,000
When the earth hits the cosmic dust trail of this comet, which returns about every 133 years, the particles of comet dust, often the size of a pinhead, penetrate the earth’s atmosphere at 60 kilometers per second – i.e. at the incredible speed of 216,000 kilometers per hour. At a height of 80 to a hundred kilometers, the small dust particles then create the light phenomena called shooting stars.
Swarm of meteorites: As in heavy snowdrifts
The observer whizzing through space with the earth is presented with a picture of a swarm of meteorites like a car driver driving in thick snowdrifts: When looking through the windshield, it seems as if all the snowflakes come from a common starting point. In truth, only perspective plays a trick – just like with the Perseids, whose traces of light can all be extended back into the constellation Perseus from the point of view of the earthly observer.
Spectacle in the sky: impressive fireballs
The larger meteors shine as brightly as bright stars and planets when they enter the atmosphere. The so-called fireballs are even brighter, but also correspondingly rarer. These spectacular meteors often drag a colored afterglowing tail behind them.
Star spectacle: good all-round visibility is important
Sky-gazers do not need special equipment to observe the Perseids – a deck chair or sleeping mat and good all-round visibility are sufficient. Binoculars or even telescopes are even a hindrance when tracking down the meteors that burn up in seconds, because the field of view of such instruments is far too small for the nimble sky cruisers.
Photographing Perseids: Use a wide angle and a tripod
A place far away from cities flooded with artificial light offers the best observation opportunities. If you want to photograph the meteor shower, you should use a wide-angle lens, mount the camera on a tripod and choose a long exposure.
Where does the name “Perseids” come from? Fiery rain of tears
Incidentally, the August meteors are popularly known as Laurenti tears. The name is reminiscent of St. Lawrence, who died a martyr’s death on August 10, 258 under the rule of the Roman Emperor Valerian. Since then, legend has it that it has rained fiery tears that day. (AFP / frs)
List of rubric lists: © John Baker / Imago